Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Christen Harper credits plant-based diet for keeping her bikini-ready

When it came time to slip into a skimpy swimsuit, Christen Harper was ready for her close-up. The model was photographed by Ben Watts in Portugal for the 2024 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue . The outlet is celebrating its 60th anniversary.  The fiancée of Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff told Fox News Digital following a plant-based diet has been her secret to looking — and feeling — her best in swimwear. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT MODEL KATE UPTON MAKES SIZZLING COMEBACK FOR 60TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE "I’m a longtime animal lover," said the 30-year-old. "I never wanted to do anything that would hurt them. That’s what initially made me make the switch to a more plant-based lifestyle. "I live in California , the mecca for that kind of eating," she chuckled. "So, it hasn’t been too hard. But it’s a choice I made to just eat vegetables. … For me, it was an easy choice, and it makes me feel so good. I feel like I’m glowing from the inside out just eating that type of food. … And I have a fun time trying to come up with more plant-forward recipes." The new issue of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit was published May 17 with seven covers. For her spread, Harper insisted she didn’t have to take on a new diet to get in shape. Her usual routine had given her plenty of confidence. But stocking up on fruits and veggies over animal products hasn’t always been easy, she admitted. "I’m a quarter Japanese, so I grew up eating so much Japanese food, which included a lot of sushi," said Harper. "For me, that was the hardest part, to kind of let that go. It has been so much a part of my childhood and growing up. But there are so many good plant-based alternatives these days. I love a tofu roll or an avocado roll. You can get the same feeling and still go to a sushi bar. "I realized the most important part about food is sharing the experience with the people you’re with," she shared. "It doesn’t matter what you’re eating as long as you feel like you’re a part of the experience. So, I still love going to sushi bars and eating delicious Japanese food. I just pick veggie options. … Everything else has been pretty easy." Harper said those who are curious have plenty of options these days to savor plant-based dishes without compromising on taste. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER "That’s the first cardinal rule. You have to go out and do whatever it is you want to do," said Harper. "If you like dining out with friends and going to restaurants, don’t miss out on that. It doesn’t have to be so black and white.  "First, you can try going plant-based at home. You can start slow, adding a few plant-forward ingredients to your meals or trying a new plant-forward recipe . Remember, you’re choosing to feed your body. Have fun with it. And, personally, that was the most fun thing about going plant-based — dining out at restaurants. "Many restaurants these days have plant-based options," Harper noted. "But if you notice that the menu doesn’t show a lot of options, I’ll ask the server to have the chef come up with a fun plant-based dish. It allows the chef to be creative or try a recipe they don’t normally get a chance to make, just for you. It might just be a bunch of different veggie sides put together, but usually, they love getting that opportunity to make something unique. And it’s fun to try something different, something you wouldn’t usually order. "But almost everything can be turned more plant-based," Harper added. "Even Taco Bell. One of my favorite things there is swapping out the meat for beans. I can get a delicious taco or Crunchwrap Supreme anywhere just the way I like it. And sometimes going plant-based is as simple as making a little switch from meat to beans, or meat to veggies. It’s about getting a little creative and making it fun and delicious." Harper said when she’s not hitting the waves at the beach, she likes to try new recipes at home. "My go-to is always pasta," said Harper. "I love to make a spicy rigatoni with a homemade sauce that’s all plant-based. I love to make soups and rice bowls with fresh seasonal veggies. I am not the best cook, but I’m learning to get better. Right now, I’m doing a sourdough baking experiment. That’s my next journey. I’ll let you know how that goes." Harper said posing for the magazine has given her a body confidence boost. LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING? CLICK HERE FOR MORE ENTERTAINMENT NEWS "It’s really hard to be a woman," she said. "You feel constantly judged, and you’re often comparing yourself. It was partly Sports Illustrated that gave me the confidence to be me. It was wonderful to flip through the pages and see women who looked like me. We know now how important it is to see yourself represented in the media. … And this magazine loves you no matter what you look like or how you show up. They love you for you. … It’s the biggest bubble of empowerment." "I’ve been a model since I was 9 years old," Harper reflected. "For about 15 years of my life, I was going through the modeling industry, which was a little stricter and a little less inclusive. They needed you to fit in a specific sample. Sometimes my body would fluctuate, and I wouldn’t be that same size anymore. You would get ridiculed by agents. "But Sports Illustrated broke down those walls. They made the industry more inclusive, allowing everybody to feel important and included. That was such a shift for me, to realize that it’s OK to be different. It’s OK to be a little curvier. We can still celebrate ourselves and what we bring to the table" Harper said Goff has been her biggest cheerleader in trying out for SI Swimsuit. The pair met on Raya, a dating app favored by celebrities. The couple was first linked in 2019. They announced their engagement in June 2022.  "I went through the Swim Search process, which included me posting a video of myself out there in hopes I would get chosen for the magazine," said Harper. "I was so nervous. I was worried about what people would think about me.  "He was like, ‘You’ve got to go for it. Who cares if you don’t get it? Just put yourself out there.’ And he’s been there for me throughout this entire experience. I’m just so lucky because he cheers me on in every aspect of my life, whether I’m in a bikini or anything else. During the season, I get to cheer him on and then, during the off-season, he cheers me on. "When I first got into SI, he was so pumped," said Harper. "We got a big poster … and he put it right up in his office. He does his work and looks at my poster. My first calendar, which was untouched, is still all over his office. He’s been so supportive and so happy for me. He knew how big of a dream it was for me." The Southern California native was a co-winner in the 2021 Swim Search, and she was named co-Rookie of the Year with Katie Austin following their 2022 issue appearance. She was featured in the 2023 issue.

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